Urban Visionary: Bill Rudin
by Rémy Raisner, CFA
As part of the Urban Visionary speaker series, renowned developer, owner, manager and New York civic leader Bill Rudin, Vice Chairman and CEO of Rudin Management Company addressed ULI Members at the midtown offices of Kirkland & Ellis, on Tuesday, May 13, 2014.
Rudin Management Company is a family business created by family patriarch Louis Rudinsky, a Polish-Jewish immigrant, who turned profits from a Lower East Side store into the purchase of a building on 54th Street. The family’s New York roots and philosophy have trickled down through generations, as most of the company’s assets are still in New York City, strategically located close to transit hubs, and using conservative capital structures. The Rudin family has also kept embracing Louis Rudinsky’s vision of cities as 24-hours ‘live/work’ environments, and has been a vocal advocate of urban centers as ‘the fuel driving both people and businesses’. They have sought throughout time to use technology to create better spaces for tenants, be it central air conditioning, better elevator service, or digital technologies of the 2000s.
Bill Rudin went several times over the topic of technology and the technology industry, of which he is an important New York backer. He is at the forefront of the effort to use technology in order to save on building operating costs, and believe that the technology industry will keep growing in and assist building New York City.
The Rudins believe that the City of New York will grow economically as long as it provides an attractive environment for young people to come work. With this in mind, the family forayed into the downtown Manhattan market in the mid-1990s, and worked extensively with New York’s administration in order to turn it into an attractive urban center. That strategy has proven successful as shown by the future relocation to the neighborhood of companies like CondeNast and Revlon.
Bill Rudin also spoke about his company’s recent, high-profile redevelopment of bankrupt hospital Saint Vincent in the West Village into a residential community. Even though it took 7 years in order to obtain all necessary approvals, financing was achieved at a challenging time (2011, year of the European debt crisis and U.S. debt ceiling issue), and the project is a success. 60% of the apartments have been sold so far. Out of these, 90% were purchased by American buyers, 75% of which were New Yorkers. To Bill Rudin, this testifies that the fundamentals of the city remain very strong, and make him optimistic about the future of the Big Apple.
On the topic of new mayor Bill de Blasio, Bill Rudin said that ‘the car was left with a tank full of gas (by former mayor Bloomberg), and the new administration is driving it’. In essence, the fear factor linked to de Blasio is past, and his public discourse was more rhetoric than reality. He has assembled a better team than anticipated, noticeably with the appointments of Bill Bratton, New York City Police Commissioner; Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development; and Carl Weisbrod, Chair of the New York City Planning Commission and Director of the City Planning Department. The Rudins have given guidance to City Hall, which has proven open to it.
To Bill Rudin’s eyes, the biggest future challenges for the city are to maintain public safety and to keep improving education and housing. Also, he emphasized the importance of ‘not taxing ourselves out of business’ –‘taxes need to be realistic’, he said. He noted that several prominent Wall Street firms had relocated to less expensive areas.
Bill Rudin is a visionary, in the tradition of his ancestors, and an enthusiastic New Yorker, optimistic about his city and committed to it.